Welcome to a brand new Small Business Chat. I’m thrilled to be able to feature my friends Julia Kossowska and Sam Lowe, (newly) from Magical Maths – Birmingham. I’ve known these lovely ladies via BookCrossing for years, and have watched with admiration as they’ve branched out into new aspects of their teaching careers. They’ve recently started this new venture, and we’ve been treated to a photo of Julia in character as well! This particular business is brand new, but Julia’s been freelancing before, and they both bring a wealth of experience in teaching and management, so I’m predicting that this will be a success.
Hello, Sam and Julia! What’s your business called? When did you set it up?
We are called Magical Maths – Birmingham, we are part of the Magical Maths franchise and we started in March 2015, so it is very new for us, but we have the benefit of other people’s experience and support.
Magical Maths is all about making maths fun for children. We run afterschool clubs which are based around playing games and having fun, but set up to support the new primary maths curriculum so children are learning through play and enjoying themselves. Parents have been incredibly positive about their children’s experience of it.
What made you decide to set up your own business?
We both enjoyed the work we were involved in and neither of us had ever considered buying a franchise but then when we saw Magical Maths we thought it was a fantastic opportunity to help children all over Birmingham enjoy maths.
What made you decide to go into this particular business area?
Julia had already been working at making maths relevant and enjoyable, both of us had teaching experience and Sam also had a management background, so it seemed the perfect fit. I don’t think we realised how much fun it would be.
Had you run your own business before?
Julia had some freelance experience, and Sam had experience working in businesses.
How did you do it? Did you launch full-time, start off with a part-time or full-time job to keep you going … ?
We talked a lot about this before deciding. In the end we decided that this was worth us both launching full-time and we are glad we did, as we have found there is plenty to do, and we are keen that everything is done to the highest possible standard.
What do you wish someone had told you before you started?
I guess the Guide motto is always useful – be prepared! – and then be prepared to be surprised.
What would you go back and tell your newly entrepreneurial self?
Keep positive, keep going and enjoy each new experience.
What do you wish you’d done differently?
Started recruiting staff earlier – it takes more time than we’d imagined to get the right people on board.
What are you glad you did?
Went for it fully – there was an option to have started this and run it alongside other commitments but that would have been a mistake for us.
What’s your top business tip?
Choose something you really want to do and think is very worthwhile as you will be spending a lot of time doing it
How has it gone since you started? Have you grown, diversified or stayed the same?
We are still very new – so everything is starting and growing.
Where do you see yourselves and your business in a year’s time?
We should be in more schools and have a bigger bank of staff to draw on. We need people who are looking for some casual work, love working with children, enjoy playing games, including games which include some basic maths, and have at least a “C” grade in GCSE mathematics. Personality is very important. We have been very lucky with the staff we have got so far. They are full of life and so enthusiastic. The children love them and it is not difficult to see why. When you contact us in a year’s time, it will be fun to see how much has changed!
I think this is a very exciting venture which Sam and Julia are very well suited for. I love their comment “Be prepared – then be prepared to be surprised” and I think it’s also really important when you run your own business to go into something you like. I come across people all the time who just “want to start a business,” and I do wonder, if you just go into any old business, how you sustain things when times get hard, or even challenging. Doing something you love anyway is really key, whether you’re making maths fun, editing books or restoring furniture! Good luck to Julia and Sam in their new venture, and I’m looking forward to sharing how they’re doing next year!
If you’ve enjoyed this interview, please see more small business chat, the index to all the interviewees, and information on how you can have your business featured (I have a full roster of interviewees now so am only taking on a very few new ones). If you’re considering setting up a new business or have recently done so, why not take a look at my books, all available now, in print and e-book formats, from a variety of sources.